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Sunday, November 3, 2013

Little Red Writing, written by Joan Holub and illustrrated by Melissa Sweet. Chronicle Books, Raincoast. 2013. $19.99 ages 8 and up

"Description adds pizzazz to any story, but Little Red was bogged down, hindered, lost! She reached into her word basket for help.

Aha! Scissors!
I need to cut through
all this description
and stick to
the story path."

I love fractured fairy tales -old traditional stories made new again. I have a number of them on my 'keepers' shelf; but, I have never encountered a version of Red Riding Hood that comes close to this fresh and funny telling.

This Red Riding Hood is always en pointe! She is, after all, a pencil...a pencil with a special assignment. She is tasked with writing a story, and it can be daunting and dangerous. A plan is provided...a story path with four steps. When Red decides to write a story that matches her color, which stands for bravery, her teacher has further advice:

"Ms. 2 gave Little Red a basket of 15 red words to use in case she ran into trouble."

Red is confident. Opening her notebook, she gets 'write' to work. Not content to use 'walked' as her motion word, she attends gym and finds many action words that might be used instead. Out the door and into a 'deep, dark, descriptive forest' where adjectives abound and can become a distraction from the path. She uses one of her basket words to move the story along. Her meeting with Conjunctive Glue leads to another dilemma and mayhem takes over:

"Little Red squeezed the bottle...
Too many glue words came out!
So that is how she found herself
writing a sentence that would not
end but just kept going and going
and running on and on although
it had no purpose yet it would not
get out of her story or say anything
important so she was glad when a
helpful word arrived - "

When she runs into real trouble, she uses the 'red' words from her basket with wild abandon in order to escape the danger. Now, she is on her own and makes the decision to follow the danger, as all brave pencils would do. Is she brave enough to finish her story?

Joan Holub creates an alternate version of a familiar story in a totally unique manner. And, it works! Melissa Sweet adds an extra dose of charm with her familiar mixed media creations. There is so much to attract attention and keep readers involved in the story's arc. The colors are bright, the action lively and the many humorous details offer certain engagement in the story's plot. The lessons will be learned without any hoopla...rather fine storytelling magic.

It is a book worth celebrating!


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